Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 10, pp 1665–1672 | Cite as

Mating effort and female receptivity: how do male guppies decide when to invest in sex?

  • Palestina Guevara-Fiore
  • Jessica Stapley
  • Penelope J. Watt
Original Paper


Males vary in the degree to which they invest in mating. Several factors can explain this variation, including differences in males’ individual condition and the fact that males allocate their energy depending on the context they face in each mating attempt. Particularly, female quality affects male reproductive success. Here, we studied whether male guppies (Poecilia reticulata) strategically allocated more mating effort, in terms of mating behaviour and male–male competition, when they were matched with a receptive (R) female than a non-receptive one. In accordance with our prediction, we found that males increased their mating behaviour when they were with a receptive female. Even though male guppies can inseminate non-receptive females, we only found high levels of courtship between males that were with a receptive female rather than a non-receptive one. Although there was little affect of female receptivity on male–male competition, we found that males chased and interrupted courtships more with receptive females than with non-receptive females regardless of odour. Finally, we also studied whether the sexual pheromone produced by receptive female guppies is a cue that males use in order to increase their mating effort. We found that males were more attracted to a female when they perceived the sexual pheromone, but only increased their mating and aggressive behaviours when females showed receptive behaviour. This strategic increase in mating effort could result in higher male reproductive success because mating attempts towards receptive females are likely to be less costly and males could have a greater probability of fertilisation.


Sexual selection Male mate choice Mating strategies Female reproductive status Male competition Poeciliidae 



We would like to thank Rhonda Snook and Nelly Gidaszewski for providing us with the program Observer to analyse our data. We are also grateful to two anonymous referees for their constructive comments in an earlier version of the manuscript. P.G-F. was supported by a Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award. The experiments described in this paper comply with the current laws of the UK, and no licences were required for the study. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Palestina Guevara-Fiore
    • 1
  • Jessica Stapley
    • 1
  • Penelope J. Watt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal & Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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